Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ducks finish flying high. I can't wait for next season

We enjoyed watching MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS on television last night.
Marcus Mariota passed for 253 yards and ran for 133 more and Oregon returned two interceptions for touchdowns as the Ducks defeated TEXAS, 30-7, in the ALAMO BOWL.
The national attention focused on Texas coach MACK BROWN, leading the Longhorns for the final time in 16 seasons.
Oregon marked an end of an era as well. Defensive coordinator NICK ALIOTTI coached his final game with the team. Aliotti has spent 21 years at Oregon, and his Duck defense made a bold statement in shutting down Texas.
I was disappointed Oregon didn't advance to a NEW YEAR'S DAY bowl this season, but I am highly anticipating next year, and the continued development of a young, good team.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

England fell asleep before I did during last night's cricket

I had planned to listen to some of the ASHES CRICKET match commentary online last night before falling asleep.
As it happened, the match ended before my bedtime.
AUSTRALIA (204 & 231-2) dominated ENGLAND (255 & 179), winning by eight wickets and improving to 4-0 in the series -- moving closer to a 5-0 "whitewash" of the visitors.
It seemed like England had fallen asleep on the field.
Chris Rogers scored 116 runs and Shane Watson 83 against an England side that managed to drop three catches.
Not that the drops really mattered. England were doomed the night before, when they twice lost three wickets for one run and tossed away their last five wickets for six runs.
It was fun for me to listen to a warm-weather sport on a night of dropping winter temperatures. It wasn't so much fun hearing England's team struggle so mightily, with the prospect of additional humiliation to come.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy birthday, dear Dalek, happy birthday to you

They first appeared on screen 50 years ago today, in a serial variously known as "The Mutants," "The Dead Planet" and the name that would eventually enter into popular lore, "THE DALEKS."
Their emergence from the "DOCTOR WHO" television series into mainstream culture is so impressive and complete that a 2008 survey found nine out of 10 British children could correctly identify them.
I have loved Daleks since childhood, when I craved SCIENCE FICTION on television and "Doctor Who" provided interesting, entertaining stories and characters -- none more memorable than the Daleks and their tales.
I'm not alone.
Daleks have made significant impressions on other people, particularly those in music. They've become the subjects of songs -- "I am a Dalek" by THE ART ATTACKS is a punk favorite from 1978 -- and they've been incorporated into the names of bands -- the Liverpool synthpop combo DALEK I LOVE YOU.
Clearly, Doctor Who's most famous nemeses have earned the accolades that come their way today -- the 50th anniversary of their entering our consciousness.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The most important thing to hit rock music since electricity? Well, maybe

..."the Dolls are the most important thing to hit rock music since electricity and if you don't think so, get outta the way buddy!"
Nick Kent was paraphrasing to make a point in his 1974 NME piece on the NEW YORK DOLLS, but as I listen to a 40-song playlist of the proto-punk combo's raw tunes, I think Kent was not far off the mark.
The debut album by David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Arthur "Killer" Kane and Jerry Nolan came out 40 years ago, yet it still sounds menacing and dangerously cool.
Polarizing in contemporary times, the Dolls proved enormously influential as their legacy unfolded. They helped shape the sound of punk, inspiring alternative pioneers such as Morrissey in the process.
The Dolls were trashy and tough, bending genders and breaking guitar strings in such a haphazard manner that detractors such as rock producer Bob Ezrin (of KISS fame) proclaimed:
"Do you actually like the New York Dolls? Well, all I can say man, is that you have been duped. Duped!"
Rock critic Robert Christgau took a more reasoned view, writing:
"To be a Doll was to appear 24 hours a day in an improvised psychodrama, half showbiz and half acting out, that merely got wilder in front of the microphones."
If you have never heard the New York Dolls yourself, I recommend giving them a try. The echoes of their raucous rock still fill the airwaves -- whether you realize it or not.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let's still strive for justice for Kirsty MacColl

This is my photo of the KIRSTY MacCOLL bench in London's Soho Square.
It's a memorial bench.
The English singer-songwriter was killed, 13 years ago today, after being struck by a speedboat while swimming in a protected diving area off the coast of COZUMEL, MEXICO.
The boat was owned by a Mexican supermarket tycoon, GUILLERMO GONZALEZ NOVA, who was on board at the time of the accident.
One of Nova's employees took the blame for the accident, and paid a relatively minor fine.
Eyewitnesses have disputed Nova's accounts of the events.
A JUSTICE FOR KIRSTY campaign increased awareness of the incident, but it was unable to make Mexican authorities hold the perpetrators accountable.
I will take time today to urge justice for Kirsty myself.

Monday, December 16, 2013

AVB sacking proves top-flight management is losing proposition

I wouldn't want to be a manager of a top-flight ENGLISH FOOTBALL CLUB.
Take the case of ANDRÉ VILLAS-BOAS, for example.
He boasts the highest winning percentage of the past 13 TOTTENHAM managers and the club lies seventh in the PREMIER LEAGUE and have advanced in the EUROPA LEAGUE.
That wasn't enough. Spurs sacked Villas-Boas this morning after the top brass lost patience following a 5-0 home defeat to LIVERPOOL.
Villas-Boas became Spurs manager in July 2012, leading them to fifth in his first season.
He must be star-crossed, though. He was sacked by CHELSEA as well.
I can't imagine him getting another opportunity to lead a top-flight club, unless he is able to lead a Championship side into a promotion place.
Still, why would he want to manage in the Premier League again? It seems like a perpetually losing proposition.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cinematic country music from the Wilburn Brothers

I drove through the SNOW this morning thinking that the WILBURN BROTHERS songs I was enjoying would sound absolutely terrific in films.
Arkansas natives Doyle and Teddy Wilburn continued in the country duet harmony vein of the likes of the Louvin Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and the Delmore Brothers.
Their 1950s-60s peak coincided with greater electrification of COUNTRY MUSIC, however, so there is a more twanging, rocking edge to their songs, such as "Blue Blue Day" from 1961.
The ringing electrical guitars cut through the snowy, grey day like flashing stage lights, and I  could imagine the music draped upon entire scenes of imagined films.
Cinematic country music. Is that a thing? It was for me, today.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Naipaul's multifaceted look at a multifaceted land

I've just completed reading "AN AREA OF DARKNESS," the first of three travelogues detailing trips the Nobel Prize laureate V.S. NAIPAUL made to the nation of his ancestors, INDIA.
Naipaul views India in its all its horror and beauty -- the crushing poverty and grace under pressure of its people.
He also writes magnificently.
Consider this passage, about the dark shops of the oldest part of Srinagar, in Kashmir:
"Against this drabness, an overwhelming impression of muddiness, of black and grey and brown, colour stood out and was enticing: The colours of sweets, yellow and glistening green, however fly-infested. Here one was able to learn again the attraction of primary, heraldic colours, the colours of toys, and of things that shone, and to rediscover that child's taste so long suppressed, which is also a peasant's taste, erupting here, as in the rest of India, in tinsel and coloured lights and everything we had once considered pretty."
Naipaul has made many observations in this book. India disgusts and fascinates him. He does not seem a conscientious guest, either. He often allows himself to be ruled by his ambivalence to the subcontinent and its multitudes.
I recommend the book, however, for its multifaceted examination of a multifaceted land.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Listless Redskins dominating the conversation

We're listening to 106.7 THE FAN from WASHINGTON, D.C., online this morning.
The local NFL team is dominating the conversation, following KANSAS CITY'S 45-10 win over the REDSKINS yesterday.
Washington seemed lifeless on the field, although few would have noticed in person. The stands at FedEx Field were shockingly empty.
Was it the weather? Crowds flocked to see games played in blizzards in Philadelphia and Baltimore yesterday -- Washington had marginally better weather.
It must have been the listless play on the field.
Now, the commentators on the radio are discussing the hapless state of the franchise from top to bottom.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Recalling the inspiration of Nelson Mandela in the little details

I still have the button from my first political protest action -- a college rally calling for the end of APARTHEID in SOUTH AFRICA and the release of the iconic NELSON MANDELA.
Yesterday's news of Mandela's death came as no surprise, but saddened millions nonetheless.
I immediately recalled singing along to "Free Nelson Mandela" by The Special A.K.A. and "Mandela Day" by Simple Minds.
I recalled watching live on television during Mandela's release from prison.
I recalled the newspaper front page I saved from South Africa's 1995 Rugby World Cup victory -- "Springboks World in Union" -- read the banner headline. Mandela featured prominently in the nation's celebration of the win.
These were all little details of Mandela's life, inspiration and presence I have kept throughout the years.
Like so many people around the world, I will miss Mandela and will continue to be inspired by his life's work to bring freedom to all.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Enjoying a special night of Christmas music in Galena

ANNIKA and I spent last evening marveling at the breadth of great CHRISTMAS music.
The top choirs and musicians from 10 local churches and two schools converged to perform "On This Holy Night," "Lift Thine Eyes," "Joy to the World" and other traditional Christmas songs.
It was probably the best Christmas concert I had ever attended.
There were several "wow" moments, including a Christian school's girls ensemble singing like angels, a young man performing a dazzling version of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" on classical guitar and a combined church choir accompanied by a beautiful oboe.
The variety of the choirs was remarkable, with youngsters followed by older adults, traditional church choirs followed by swinging, guitar-led singing collectives.
The concert certainly helped fan the flames of my Christmas spirit.
Isn't music amazing?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

There's something rotten in Big Apple sports this fall

Now I understand why NEW YORK media has spent so much time covering free-agent signings by the NEW YORK YANKEES.
I just reviewed the standings of the teams playing their current seasons.
Gotta hand it to those NEW YORK RANGERS -- at .500 they're the only one of the bunch with a non-losing record during what must be an historic BIG APPLE sports meltdown:
Giants 5-7, Jets 5-7, Nets 5-13, Knicks 3-13, Rangers 14-14, Devils 11-12-5, Islanders 8-15-5.
That's such a widespread drop into futility it would be enough to make any sports fan wonder:
"Is it baseball season yet?"

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Amazon's drones push us closer to a 'Jetsons' reality

The weekend news that AMAZON.COM is developing unmanned aircraft to deliver packages immediately made me think of THE JETSONS.
The WILLIAM HANNA-JOSEPH BARBERA always represented a view of the future when I was a kid -- with George, Jane, Judy and Elroy Jetson relying upon numerous robotic conveniences.
The family used video phones, watched TV on flatscreens, robot maids served their human employers and flying cars folded into briefcases.
Amazon's drones would have fit right in.